A Geek in Japan | 2007 December
Adventures of a geek living in Japan
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Falsehood, deceive – 偽

Every year Japanese choose a kanji character that represents the society feeling of the year that ends. The most voted character this year was 偽 (gi, nise), it means “falsehood, lie, deceive, pretend”.

The bit internal problem in Japan this year was the loss of more than 50 million records from the Japanese Social Security systems. That means that the government doesn’t know who has been paying or not. The government promised to recover all the data, so they would be able to know who can receive a pension. The those promises started to become lies, and Japanese society started to loose confidence. The former prime minister Shinzo Abe resigned and Jiminto(Liberal Democratic Party) lost the Sangiin elections. Those are the main reasons why this year the kanji of the year is 偽=Falsehood.

Gi
A monk writing 偽 (gi, nise). Picture from Mainichi

On 2005 and 2006the selected ones were 愛 (ai: love) y 命 (inochi: life). This year seems to be much more pessimistic than the previous ones.

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Camera without battery

Sony has just shown his news 3 megapixel camera that looks like a pizza cutter. This curious shape has a meaning, it makes it easier to reload the battery. Every time you want to take a picture you have to roll the wheel against a surface during 15~20 seconds until you generate enough energy to take a picture.

Sony Camera
La cámara sin batería de Sony se llama “Twirl N’ Take”.

3

Wii Fit

I’ve been playing Wii Fit for a while, it’s pretty cool! You exercise while playing, it’s the same concept as Doko demo Yoga for the DS. Wii Fit is interesting because it comes with a balance board that acts as an extra controller calculating how much weight you are releasing on each area . More info and videos at Dannychoo’s post.

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Roppongi Hills

Roppongi Hills is a “futuristic micro-city” that was built in Roppongi (Tokyo) in 2003. The complex has more tha 800 apartments, Livedoor, Yahoo Japan, Lehman Brothers, Rakuten, Konami and Goldman Sachs offices, a cinema, a hotel, bars and luxurious restaurants, a museum, a TV studio, gardens, a gym, a shopping area etc. All you need to live compressed in various towers, the main one is the Mori Tower that has 54 floors. It seems a convenient place to live but living there would cost you an arm and a leg, 100 square meters rental it’s about 10.000$~20.000$. The construction of Roppongi Hills was a changer, it reactivated the financial activity in Roppongi and brought many business from Shinjuku (Businessweek article from 2002).

If you travel to Japan, here there is a map with the most interesting places to visit in Roppongi Hills.

Roppongi

Roppongi
More detailed maps here and here.

Blue circles are the best exits from Roppongi station if you want to go to Roppongi Hills. But you can also go to Roppongi using Oedo line and then take exit 7. If you love architecture you will love Roppongi Hills and you will spend a long time enjoying it, if not maybe just with one hour you will have enough to grasp the essence of the area. Add one extra hour if you go to up to the Tokyo City View and the Mori Art Museum

1.- The giant spider: is a sculpture made by Louise Bourgeois. I love the eggs detail.
2.- Muesum: on the top floor there is a panoramic city view and a museum. If it’s a clear day you will even be able to see Mount Fuji.
3.- Cinema: interesting if you are living in Tokyo. You can make reservations from the web or from your keitai.
4.- TV Asahi and Doreamon shop: next to the Mori Tower there is a huge TV studio owned by Asahi TV. Inside the building there is a shop full of Doreamon merchandising.
5.- Heartland bar: it’s a ‘classic’ bar. It’s a meeting point to have the first beer of the night. It’s located below Zara.
6.- Garden: is specially beautiful with night illumination.

roppongi roppongihills
The Mori Tower is more than 200 meters tall, but the most impressing feature is how wide it is.

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills
The giant spider(Number 1 in the map)

roppongi roppongihills
Below the spider.

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills
Map of the first floors. It’s really complex!

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills
Mori museum entrance (Number 2 in the map)

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills

roppongi roppongihills
Asahi TV studio and Tokyo Tower in the horizon (Number 4 in the map)

roppongi roppongihills
Tokyo Tower taken from Roppongi Hills.

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Robot shop

Last weekend I went to Akihabara and spend some time visiting the Tsukumo shop where they only have robots and robot related goodies. They are specialized in humanoid robots but they also have all kinds of electronic and mechanical components that you would need to build your own robot. Will Smith went to this shop when he came to Japan to promote his movie “I, Robot”, they are also one of the organizers of the Akihabara robot competitions.

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics
Tons of books about robotics.

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics
Will Smith visiting the shop, I wonder if he was attack by one of the robots.

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics

robot tsukumo robotica robotics
It’s a Hello Kitty !

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Expensive branches

Visiting Tokyu Hands, one of my favorite shops in Japan I found a corner full of little branches. There are differents sizes, packs with many of them, different types of wood etc. It’s ok if they sell branches, but look at the prices! This branch in the first picture is 378 yen (more than 2 euros/3 dollars).

ramas tokyuhands

ramas tokyuhands

ramas tokyuhands

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Public bath rules

Japanese people love to take baths inside really hot water(40~50 degrees Celsius). Maybe is their lack of swimming pools or maybe is just that being a volcanic island makes it easy to build baths from hot spring water. Here there is some of the basic vocabulary related to the Japanese bath culture.

  • お風呂(ofuro): “bath” in general.
  • 銭湯(sentou): public “bath”. There is usually one “sentou” in each neibourhood, they are divided in one big bathtub for men an and one for women.
  • 温泉(onsen): hot spring. “Onsen” are located in volcanic areas.
  • 露天風呂(rotenburo): outdoor bath.
  • 野天風呂(notenburo): indoor bath.

The water is usually around 43 degrees, but it can be up to 50. I can go inside even when the water is 45, but no more! Japanese like the water to be REALLY hot. Next there is a poster with some of the rules you have to know before going to an “onsen” or “sentou”:

Ofuro
Original size

  • Do not take a bath with your underwear on.
  • Do not waste water.
  • Do not bring your towel with you into the tub.
  • Wipe yourself off before coming out to the dressing area.
  • Washing clothes of is not allowed.
  • Make sure to wash yourself well before getting into the tub.

I respect all these rules. But there is another rule, that is not written in this poster but everyone knows it, you can’t enter the bathing area with sandals. It’s a stupid rule! I think it’s one of the reasons why it’s so easy to get “athletes foot”(水虫=mizumushi= “bug water”), in summer you see that one of the most featured products in drugstores are ointments to treat fungus. They could start using sandals, I don’t think it would hard anyone, but sometimes stupid rules are difficult to change…

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iDrop

“iDrop” is a speaker where you put your iPod inside. It keeps the iPod protected against potential dangerous external agents like sand or water. Is a cheap alternative to the waterproof iPod.

iPod Drop

iPod Drop

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Koban – 交番

“Koban” (交番) are police-boxes. There are many in Japan, and they are all pretty uniformly distributed, there are around 1.000 only in Tokyo. The purpose of this system is to have some police presence in many places, so people would feel safe. Koban are little and are easy to recognize because they usually have peculiar shapes.

I like koban because they always have an area map and a bored policeman who would help you to find your way if you are lost or you are looking for some specific place. The koban system is also used in Singapur and Brasil, countries that were helped/advised by the Japanese government.

Koban

Koban

Koban
Koban

One of the curiosities about koban is that many of them are empty and open at night!. You can free to go inside, look around an you can even use a telephone just in case you want to call the police! You can call the police from a police-box, isn’t it surrealistic?

Koban
Empy koban.

Koban
Table inside a Koban.

Koban
Computer inside the previous koban.

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